Backing Up (Part 2) - External Hard Drives
(from the 11/06 issue of the CompuNerds Nerdsletter - sign up for it here)
This is the backup method I recommend for most people in most situations:
Back up to an external hard drive, using specialized backup software.
That’s pretty straightforward. Let’s define almost every word in that sentence.
A hard drive is like a stack of phonograph records, except the grooves are magnetic instead of vinyl. Data is written in or read from the grooves by the equivalent of a needle that floats just above the surface of each record, or platter. The hard drive is a stack of these little platters sealed in a tiny enclosure.
If the drive resides inside your computer’s case, it is called an internal hard drive. If the drive lives outside the computer case and connects to the computer with wires, it is called an external drive.
Generally, hard drives have enough room to hold all the data in your computer.
Most external hard drives connect to your computer using either USB 2.0 or Firewire. Both types of connections are useful for moving large amounts of data quickly. USB 2.0 is more common on PCs, and you’re more likely to find Firewire on the Macintosh. Most new computers will allow you to connect to either. Just make sure that the type of connection used by the external drive you buy is supported by your computer.
Some manufacturers will include specialized backup software with the hard drive. Specialized backup software automates the task of copying your data onto an external hard drive. It makes sure everything gets backed up, and keeps track of what’s new or changed since the last backup. Most programs will let you schedule the backup to occur automatically at a time you specify, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it.
I recommend BackupMyPc by Roxio for the PC, and Retrospect by Dantz for the Macintosh.
Backing Up (Part 3) will discuss backup strategies: taking your backups offsite and online.